Defining The Best and The Worst

When we look at what makes builders great, desire drives the quest to stand out. It flows throughout their teams, their language, their homes.

By Dean Horowitz, Publisher | July 31, 2003


Dean Horowitz, Publisher

Some say desire is a bad thing. Truth is, like most things, it is only good for you in moderation. But when we look at what makes builders great, desire drives the quest to stand out. It flows throughout their teams, their language, their homes.

When I was a kid, I listened to Take No Prisoners by Lou Reed a few hundred times. During one of the live performances on the album he put a twist on Yeats when he said, "The best lack all conviction and the worst are filled with a passion and intensity." He then challenged the audience to figure out which one he is - best or worst.

I still remember this line clearly today because it had an impact on me. Was I going to be the best or the worst?

According to Yeats' challenge, the best people can be controlled. They are not going to create waves or change. They are the "yes" people in our companies and not the "why." Many will do their job exactly how you frame it to be done. No push back, just a desire to know the rules of the game so they can succeed. They are not in leadership positions because they want decisions made for them. But when they do fulfill that role, the overall work environment becomes treacherous because no all-reaching goal exists.

The worst are the zealots, the passionate ones, who challenge themselves and others along the way. Their questions aren't "Can it be done?" but instead "How quickly can we do it?" They create the new. They are leaders because they cannot settle for business as usual. And, when they are not the leaders, management feels a push that isn't always considered acceptable behavior.

In this context, builders are Yeats' worst. Full of desire, they believe in what they do and create goals that are beyond "stretch." They see what can be accomplished, hear the sounds of the process and smell the job site before land is even purchased.

Many builders fail by traditional standards. They have gone bankrupt, one of the most feared events anyone can imagine. But these builders remain focused on the their dreams and rise again from bankruptcy, some two or three times. They are like Thomas Edison, who imagined a light bulb and was almost pleased with the failures along the way because they got him closer to his goal.

Now take the builders who have created companies, teams and products and then have been acquired by another company. They are faced with a boss, one full of desire as well, but that boss' desire to drive earnings at any cost is in direct conflict with the individual's desire to make incredible homes with incredible people. The boss looks at people as commodities and payback on the investment, the builder looks at people as the way he/she got to sell their company in the first place.

Maybe it is the fight between the entrepreneur and the bureaucrat. Or maybe it is the fight between the best and the worst. What-ever it is, the acquired or merged builder is forced to change in an environment that has the same offices but a different name on the door and attitude coming down the halls.

Desire to become a leading builder, to have the largest share of market, to have the highest customer satisfaction ratings is common for Professional Builder readers. You demonstrate commitment through your search for the ideas that satisfy the desire. Ultimately, your ideas invigorate those around you.

Yeats' best combined with Yeats' worst is who we ultimately want to be - and probably are: Driven to achieve with a temperament that brings different people together behind powerful goals and objectives. We need strength in convictions but also the ability to not alienate those around us. We need to be about the ultimate goal and not about ourselves. So, as Lou Reed challenged his listeners, which are you? The best or the worst?


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